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Play for Change

Ocean Care Movement’s 1st surfing event celebrates the sport and a cleaner Baler The Ocean Care Movement (OCM) made its mark as it held its first ever surf competition last April 6 to 8 at the

Grommet Division champion Jeperson Faraon

Ocean Care Movement’s 1st surfing event celebrates the sport and a cleaner Baler

The Ocean Care Movement (OCM) made its mark as it held its first ever surf competition last April 6 to 8 at the Aliya Surf Camp in Baler, Aurora. Founded with the goal to raise environmental awareness and eco-friendly practices, the movement has found a way to nurture surfing while maintaining a clean beach OCM’s event – Pacific Slide: A Play for Change – was also a celebration of Baler’s 40 years of surfing, wherein a staggering number of 122 surfers from all over the Philippines joined in the competitions. The event stayed true to OCM’s advocacy, as it complemented the action in the water with environmental awareness talks, and an interactive booth for participants to learn about the waste problem and the feasible solutions for it.

Throughout the event, merchants sold eco-friendly items, such as stainless straws, organic sunblock, and cloth pads. The event organizers went as far as making sure the event was as zero-waste as possible — judges and staff were served food plated on banana leaves, a waste segregation area was available, trophies were made out of recycled materials, and people were encouraged to bring their own reusable tupperwares and utensils.

“Pacific Slide was not an ordinary surf competition,” OCM founder Shan Alejos said. “It was a play for change event, where we were able to share our advocacy to the community.”

Raising awareness one step at a time

OCM was founded earlier this year by a couple of women whose love of surfing led to their migration to Baler. Alejos, 24, moved to Baler two years ago, while Jovanne Faraon, 27, has been living in Baler for about two and a half years.

Faraon and Alejos felt the need to start the movement as they observed the waste management problem in Baler rise as time went by. Sabang Beach, where most tourists go to surf, was becoming regularly littered with plastic bags, straws, bottles, cigarette butts, and other trash.

Apart from holding meetings with different communities and associations to come up with sustainable solutions to the garbage situation, the two also initiated weekly beach clean ups through OCM, with locals and tourists gathering every Saturday morning to clean and segregate the trash along the beach.

Being a new organization with a big dream, Faraon and Alejos knew that they had to work extra hard to make some noise. Thus, they were fully open to ideas on how to raise funds for the long-term plans of OCM.

It was in February when Faraon and Alejos were asked by the Aurora Surf Riders Association, Inc. (ASRAI) to organize a surf competition in celebration of Baler’s 40 years of surfing. That left the two founders and a few other volunteers with very little time to prepare for the event. Faraon shares that they agreed to organizing the event despite the time constraints, as it served the dual cause of furthering their advocacy, while helping market OCM nationwide.

“We wanted to spread awareness and let that be an impact to the surfers who regularly walk along the coast and somehow remind themselves about the garbage situation in Sabang Beach,” Faraon said.

Aside from the surf competition, Pacific Slide also had other simultaneous events such as a skate competition, a frisbee match, and a freeplay volleyball game. The event seemed to be a successful stint for the growing movement as both the participants and the audiences responded to the advocacy well.

“The positive reactions overflowed and the reach of OCM went further because this happened,” Faraon said. “The event was just the start of introducing OCM and it’s advocacy to the community, especially the youth,” Alejos added.

Moving for the future generations

The three-day surf competition culminated with the awarding night where the surf champions were given the stage to share their sentiments about environmental problems.

“I am thankful for Ocean Care Movement because they are raising awareness about our garbage,” Jeperson Faraon, the grommet division champion, said in Filipino. “I am hoping for a garbage collection service here in Sabang.”

Grommet Division champion Jeperson Faraon

Grommet Division champion Jeperson Faraon

The 16-year-old closed his address by sharing that he has encountered trash while surfing, and that he desires a cleaner playground for him and for the future generations as well.

Jeperson’s dream is shared by OCM, as the organization aims to maintain clean coasts for the future generations to enjoy. Knowing that the youth are taking to heart the advocacy of OCM makes the group even more excited with their activities.

“We are so happy to see people becoming more aware of the issues that we can solve as a community since we kicked off the movement,” Alejos shared. “The grom champion’s speech was very heartwarming and inspiring. We continued the beach clean ups and new faces of youth turned up to join the movement during and after the event.”

Looking forward to moving forward

Faraon and Alejos are happy that since the Pacific Slide, more opportunities came to OCM.

“I’m looking forward to partnerships that will help us carry on with our next steps and hopefully new passionate volunteers to join the team. It’s great to have like minded organizations that expressed their interest in caring for the ocean in support of OCM,” Alejos said.

With this, the founders are excited to move forward with their organization and start even more projects that would hopefully make an impact in Baler’s environment.

As the saying goes, the movement has just begun.